Lanka takes steps to avert risks on rapid industrialisation drive

By Ifham Nizam

To meet EU (European Union) standards and woo image-conscious buyers, Sri Lanka’s garment industry has worked hard to raise its labour and environmental standards. Most of the leading manufacturers even tout eco-friendly plants that cut down on water and energy usage.

It is in such a context that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) has taken a number of initiatives to maintain international standards, especially EU standards. 

CEA Chairman Charitha Herath says that the CEA with the assistance of the Asian Disaster Management Center in Thailand and the United Nation’s Environment Programme (UNEP) had recently initiated a Programme on `Chemical Accident Prevention and Preparedness’ (CAPP) to ensure that standards were maintained.

He noted that with the rapid industrialization drive throughout Sri Lanka, increasing risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals is a common phenomenon.

Thus, it is an urgent need to increase Sri Lanka’s capacity to prevent the occurrence of chemical accidents and to be prepared to deal with such accidents efficiently. As such the main goal of this project was to reach a common understanding on current needs, priorities and share experiences on recent efforts in developing CAPP programmes in selected countries in Asia as well as in other countries such as the US and some European countries.

He believes this progamme also gives an opportunity to review and discuss the lessons learnt for Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at Local Level (EPL) which was successfully implemented in Sri Lanka and in other Asian countries like Thailand, India and Philippines. EPL standards are in line with the EU standards that open the way for opportunities in the European market. The process is usually facilitated by the Board of Investment and tourism industry. "We give our concurrences to the BoI and Tourism industry to market the country," he added.

CEA Rules

According to Herath, the CEA under Act No. 47 of 1980 introduced rules and regulations to control industrial noise and community noise. Rules and regulations for industrial noise were strictly adhered to during the past. The CEA clearance was granted only for the industries which were free from industrial noises. He observed that presently most vehicle drivers, especially bus drivers, sounded the horn with no concern towards the people or the environment. Some private bus drivers deliberately sound the horn to outflank rivals.

No person should be allowed to use or cause to sound vehicle horns beyond the limits under noise control regulations, he stressed.  Sound limits are measured with an equipment accepted worldwide to maintain Sound Standards. Noise levels will be measured in terms of the sound pressure level SPL (Lamax) in decibels (DB) by using sound level metres conforming to Type One (1) of the British Standards (BS) measuring equipment as recommended by the CEA.  Major noise pollution in our country occurs around commercial locations, mobile noise makers, public address systems, household activities and entertainment events, he added.

A recent survey has identified motor vehicles as the leading noise polluter in Sri Lanka. According to the survey such noise mainly originates from vehicle engines and silencers, particularly of buses and lorries. Some vehicle owners deliberately replace the factory fitted vehicle horns with louder air horns and also change silencers to enhance vehicle noise.  A recent survey revealed that the drivers and conductors responsible for introducing noise are continually exposed to noise levels and face a greater risk of hearing impairment than the passengers themselves.

Noise causes many types of adverse health effects

The most prevalent irreversible occupational hazard worldwide is noise - induced hearing impairment according to WHO. The main social consequence of hearing impairment is inability to understand speech in day-to-day life. Noise interference with speech comprehension results in a large number of personal disabilities handicaps and behavioural changes such as problems in concentration fatigue, irritation decreased working capacity and a number of stress reactions.

According to WHO Children living in noisy areas such as near airports, industrial complexes and noisy streets prove that noise affects human physiological functions. Acute noise exposure also causes temporary changes such as increased blood pressure and heart beating. Susceptible individuals may suffer permanent effects such as hypertension and ischemic heart diseases as a result of prolonged exposure.

Rio 20 

He believes regional wise carbon tax is of paramount importance. Sri Lanka will stick with the policy – the polluter should pay for his pollution, he stressed.

He noted that Rio+20 is expected to provide mechanisms and an enabling environment to fulfill technological and financial needs of member countries to achieve sustainable development targets and economic development goals. Mechanisms agreed should continue to strengthen the green growth options, low carbon climate resilient development, technology transfer, institutional strengthening, national and international level coordination and human capital.

Being a tropical island, Sri Lanka is prone to natural disasters and climate induced risks such as sea level rise, extended droughts, increased floods and landslides and changes in biodiversity etc. Climatic induced extreme events can take away much of the development gains in a very short spell of time.

The main climate induced challenges have been identified as food, water and energy security. Mainstreaming climate sensitivity and adaptation practices are primarily needed in agriculture, livestock, fisheries, health, water, energy and infrastructure sectors.

Investment needs for climate change adaptation measures are significant and it is expected that Rio+20 will improve access to technical support and resources for adaptation.

Promotion of renewable  energy

Promotion of renewable energy sources as opposed to fossil fuel based energy is the best solution for the increasing energy demand and as a climate change mitigation measure. Potential for wind, biomass and solar energy development is significant in Sri Lanka.

Energy efficiency is another area especially in new constructions, urban energy use and water pumping. It is necessary to develop innovative investment plans to effectively develop potential renewable energy sources in the country. It is expected that Rio+20 will provide opportunities for increased investment on renewable energy development and use efficiency improvements.

The institutional architecture to support sustainable development must be built to meet the challenges in design and implementation of development programs including support to low carbon growth.

Improved skills and institutions are necessary to implement innovative financing systems and technologies to facilitate green growth. The national and international institutional systems should be strengthened to support three pillars of sustainable development, namely, social, economic and environmental.

Herath believes Greening an economy involves integrated development in various sectors such as industry, agriculture, trading, transport, energy, infrastructure, and services such as health, education and telecommunications etc. Planning and coordination mechanisms need to be established with the capacity to evaluate and decide on different growth options to suit the country’s requirement, while ensuring growth is sustainable and resource efficient.

This process requires improved capacity to compute and adopt environmental and ecosystem services into development planning and budgeting processes. It is expected that the Rio+20 will enable mechanisms and tools to improve integrated planning and coordination capacities including ecosystem based approaches.

He believes opportunities also exist to better coordinate the inputs and mechanisms of international agencies to minimize duplication and to meet the country’s needs. Rio+20 could go beyond the Paris Declaration related approaches to harness international knowledge and resources in an efficiently coordinated manner. It should also include the optimization of procedures to be adopted by Multilateral Implementing Agencies, he avers.

animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...